The Israeli Tax Authority arrested a 41-year-old man from the northern town of Hatzor Haglilit on Thursday on suspicion he imported Nazi souvenirs, which is illegal in Israel.
The man is also accused of not paying taxes for other memorabilia he received dating back to WWI and WWII. Police suspected the man sold the items to collectors around the world, including a top soccer player in Britain.
A package sent from Germany arrived at Haifa's customs offices a few days ago. During a routine check the inspectors were shocked to discover medallions decorated with silver crucifixes and a silver goblet with a swastika imprinted on it. Some of the symbols were concealed using small stickers to make them harder to identify.
British soccer player among customers (Photo: Haifa Customs)
"The package was sent to a resident of Hatzor Haglilit and we brought it over to his house, as if it was a regular delivery, so we could see who he was," explained Head of Enforcement for Haifa Customs Doron Samara.
"Shortly thereafter his apartment was searched and we found hundreds of similar items and packages he had received from Germany. We're talking about medallions, ornaments, certificates, documents and books."
Samara estimated the value of the silver goblet at €2,000-3,000 ($2,793-4,190) but mentioned the documents found in the package are worth only €60 ($83).
He added that during the investigation the suspect said he used to purchase the items and sell them to collectors around the world. According to suspicions, so far the man has apparently received about 140 packages. He was released on bail for NIS 50,000 ($14,110) and the Tax Authority says the investigation continues with the help of tax authorities in other countries.
The memorabilia (Photo: Haifa Customs)
The man is accused of two felonies: Importing Nazi souvenirs into Israel, which is illegal, as well as lowering the value of the items in order to dodge importation taxes.
"Aside from the fact that these are felonies, I have hard feelings – both as a Jew and an Israeli," described Samara. "It's sad and shocking to learn that these kinds of items and symbols are a branch of world trade. Among the documents we've seen certificates of excellence given to the SS men, and go figure what they did to deserve these certificates."
Samara added, "There were also merit certificate given to German Air Force pilots and more. I don't think the suspect acted out of an ideological motive, but trading these kinds of items for profit is appalling."
The Tax Authority is currently trying to find the suspect's clients, including a top soccer player in Britain.